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Good, but flawed
on 15 May 2012
I discovered Robinson's work back in the eighties when i read, and thoroughly enjoyed, "Piece of Cake". Since then I've read all of his flight novels plus a good deal of his other works and I've never been disappointed. He has a dry, terse style which acts as the perfect framework for a sense of humour that moves from slapstick to corrosive anger in a heartbeat. He clearly has a well formed and very healthy lack of respect for the "stuffed shirts" who always crop up in his work, although he rarely creates a duff cliche of a character, he prefers instead to create real people and give them exasperating and sometimes abhorrent qualities and leave us, the readers, to decide if they're truly villainous or not.
This story is a bit of a mixed bag. It crackles with dark, sometimes despairing humour about the lunacy of the nuclear stand-off and the unreal position of the aircrew, the "Poor Bloody Infantry" at the sharp end, who were expected to drop the bombs and launch the missiles to uphold the political and military posturing of the world leaders in their blast proof bunkers.
In terms of plot, the story develops quite slowly and the ending is a bit limp, and initially I felt cheated. Then I realised that this is not another brain-dead "Let's find the lost secret of Atlantis" type yarn, but rather a snapshot of an impression of what it was like to be part of that surreal life, in those aeroplanes, in those days, bearing the appalling responsibility of, potentially, dropping a bomb that would kill millions. And never asking the question that had no answer anyway - "Why?"
If you are the sort of person who thinks that novels with an aeroplane on the cover should be either fast moving adventures or drippy soaps, then this is not for you. On the other hand, if you are the sort of person who likes modern history and sometimes wonders what it was like to be there, in those days and doing those things, then you should definitely give this book a go.